Webster University men’s tennis sees split in opening weekend games


The Webster University men’s tennis team started its 2013 season in Jacksonville, Ill., with a split in their first two matches of the year. The Gorloks lost their first match to the Cornell College (Iowa) Rams, 6-3 on Saturday, Feb. 9. However, Webster was able to defeat Illinois College in the second match by a score of 9-0.

The Gorloks are coming off a 14-win season — the most in the men’s tennis program history. Senior Ricky Eaves said the team did a good job against their opponents but knows it’s a long season ahead.

“We are going to have to put in some more work, but as far as the first couple matches went, I think we did well as a team,” Eaves said. “We all supported each other, everybody worked hard — it was a team effort out there.”

Senior Agustin Villalba prepares to hit a backhand during his singles match against Cornell College (Iowa) at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Ill., on Saturday, Feb. 9. Villalba lost his singles match 3-6, 6-7 (2-7) as Webster University fell 6-3 to Cornell in the season’s first match. PHOTO BY JOSH SELLMEYER.

Coach Michael Siener said having to play on an indoor surface put his team at a slight disadvantage because they aren’t used to it.

While some Gorloks didn’t play their best against the Rams, Siener was particularly pleased with the play of a few of his athletes. He said senior Josh Sellmeyer and sophomore Josh Papes worked well in doubles play.

“They played extremely well,” Siener said. “Our match against Cornell — that was the other big bright spot, (Sellmeyer and Papes) won 9-8 (7-4) and really made some big plays. Those two haven’t played a lot together yet, but you can tell the chemistry. They definitely respond to each other.”

Siener was also impressed by the play of Eaves. In 2012, Eaves was able to show his value to the team by going 10-4 overall in singles play and 12-3 in doubles matches. He was also the only player to win all four of his matches to start this season.

Eaves won the close doubles matches with his partner senior Diego Alarcon, 9-8 (7-5) against Cornell and the Illinois College Blueboys. He also won his first singles match by a narrow margin, 6-4, 6-4 and dominated the second by winning 6-0, 6-0 against his Illinois College opponent.

“I was excited, but I’m also going out there expecting to win,” Eaves said. “I didn’t want to let my team down this first week. I wanted to set an example.”

Despite the Gorloks’ inability to capitalize on a win in their first match, they were able to come back and sweep Illinois College in the second one. The Blue Boys finished the 2012 season with just one win, losing their last eight games.

Webster went into its first two matches of the year without one of its key players, senior Francissco Cortez.

Siener said in the next few weeks, the Gorloks are going to need everybody healthy in order to play well against tough opponents.

“In tennis, if you lose one of your top six guys, it can be a huge game changer,” Siener said. “I told the guys the first day of practice, ‘If we don’t have everybody at every match, we’re playing good teams, and we’re going to have a hard time winning.’”

Siener said he knows his team is talented and is going to play a tougher schedule this year in order to prepare them for the conference season. He said he hopes these first two matches will help prepare them for next week’s matches.

“We need a hard week of practice,” Eaves said “Everybody needs to focus, do what they need to do in the classroom and just work hard.”

The Gorloks will travel to Terre Haute, Ind., this weekend to face off against Franklin College (Ind.) on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 3 p.m. and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (Ind.) on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 7:30 a.m.

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